A letter from NUMEM clinic co-founder and Global scholar, Olanya Denish


I am Olanya Denish, born on 15th may 1988 from a village Called Kuywee in Kalongo Northern Uganda. I come from family of nine children, none of which went to school except my elder brother, who is a primary school teacher, and myself. During the period of my childhood there was insecurity from the war and all my family were staying in the internally displaced persons camp and could not access School. I was ultimately able to pursue my education with the help of my aunty’s family who supported me at school by buying me books so I could attend classes. After my primary schooling I became the fifth best pupil in Pader District, but unfortunately that was the time when I lost my aunty to breast cancer. I also lost my mother due to postpartum hemorrhage (PPH) when she was pregnant with twins. The distance from my village to Kalongo hospital was far and my mother ended up delivering on the way to the Hospital. Before she was able to make it to the hospital, she bled to death. One of the twins also died, while the other survived and is still alive now, though she never went to school and now has two children of her own.

When I lost these two important people in my life, my mother and my aunty, I thought I completely had no hope to do anything and had nothing to push me forward. But I kept thinking within myself that if I get any opportunity to continue with my studies, then I will work hard to become a doctor who will help to save the lives of mothers and children. Luckily enough the school sent a message to our home that I was offered bursary [a scholarship] to go to secondary school because of my high performance. I remember I went to secondary school with only one trouser, which I had to wash over the weekend. Unfortunately when I was in the second year of secondary school they stopped my school fees and the school then started to stop me from attending class and from getting meals. I then contacted my uncle with my results, which led him to find the money to allow me to complete my Advanced Certificate of Education. But he later told me he could not afford to pay for me to go to the University. Though upon my request, he was able to cover the costs for me to pursue to a Diploma in Clinical Medicine and Community Health, which was substantially cheaper than a university education.  These I completed in Jully, 2012 from Gulu.

During my course of studies at Gulu I met Ben, Patrick, Oyet, Geoffrey, and John and we began having discussions together, which led to the realization that we shared a lot in common. On our last day of our last Exam from Clinical School, I remember we sat together in the evening and asked ourselves, now that we have completed the course, what can we do to help our community in Acholi Land? We all agreed not only to look for any job opportunity within the area to help our people immediately, but also, that for the future we would strive to create a facility where our community can have to access to the quality medical care they too often lack. Fortunately my friend Ben, who was working in Pader, met Mr. David William Joseph, whom he shared these ideas. David was supportive of these ideas and we then all came together and contributed what capital we could to create the NUMEM Health Centre in Pader.

During the course of running NUMEM over the past couple of years, I would share with my friends about my interest to further my education so as to become a gynecologist, so that I can provide more services to our local community. Fortunately through our friend David,I got introduced to James Walker, whom I’ve come to treasure like a brother, and two other important people, Dr. Emily Van Beveren and Anny Su, who are the team from Asteroidea Health Alliance. I must say, I am more than grateful for having met you people and for the work we have so far done together. When Asteroidea announced that they were offering me a scholarship to go for my degree in Human Medicine and Surgery, so that I could further my mission of become a gynecologist, I was very grateful; that evening when I went to bed I was shedding tears of joy almost the whole night. THANK YOU ASTEROIDEA.

Currently I am about to complete the first semester of my second year of medical school. School is going on well and I am doing my level best so that I can go back to my people of Northern Uganda.

Thanks for all your support.

Olanya Denish

NUMEM clinic co-founder, Olanya Denish, at his home in northern Uganda, August 2016.

NUMEM clinic co-founder, Olanya Denish, at his home in northern Uganda, August 2016.